First, there was one, then there were two – we finally experienced “scooter littler.” What was once perceived as “novel” quickly became a nuisance.
Sure, the scooters were fun, convenient, and affordable – but they also created a liability. Underage kids were soon seen on streets riding scooters, reports of parents co-riding with kids, scooters riding on sidewalks – it got out of control, fast, and we needed to “pump the breaks” on scooters until we, as a community, can have control responsibly.
First, Bird Scooters Came to El Segundo
On June 21st, downtown El Segundo was hit by controversy. The controversy wasn’t over politics, but scooters! After 30 Bird scooters were dropped off as a test in anticipation of the first Artwalk of the season, questions arose over their safety and practicality. The initial tests were met with mixed feelings by El Segundo residents. When the El Segundo City Council convened on July 17th, the reservations about the scooters was apparent. The council settled on allowing the scooter companies to proceed with caution.
Unfortunately for Bird, it would appear the company did not proceed cautiously enough. Mayor Pro Tem Carol Pirsztuk was clear at the previous meeting that she was open to a scooter sharing program, but the city had understandable concerns that needed to be addressed and resolved through the proper channels.
Then, Lime Scooters Came to El Segundo
Then the unthinkable happens – another scooter company, Lime, showed up! They just didn’t show up – they doubled Bird’s fleet and El Segundo soon experienced the “scooter litter” that has frustrated residents in nearby cities.
City Council Puts Temporary Ban on Scooters in El Segundo
Both Bird and similar scooter company, Lime, were expected to work with the city to put a plan in place. This plan was intended to provide guidelines to ensure the scooters would be safe for its users and beneficial to the city with a minimum liability risk. Neither company made a strong enough effort to communicate with the city on this front leading up to the most recent city council meeting this past Tuesday, August 7th.
The verdict of the council? The scooters are banned until further notice. If you missed the meeting, read on to find out where our city council members stand on the issue.
Councilmember Chris Pimmental:
- Pimentel wasn’t interested in an outright ban and leaned on getting data that speaks to the public interest in the scooters.
Councilmember Scot Nicol:
- Nicol spoke to the overwhelming number of scooters in the downtown area. He spoke that this might be only the beginning with multiple companies offering similar services.
- Nicol had concerns with the lack of the scooter companies putting their own effort into educating the public on how to use the scooters responsibly.
- Nicol said, “we should consider a timeout” and see how it works in other towns and revisit (not an all-out ban forever) but said “I don’t think we are ready” to take on the responsibility that comes with scooters.
Councilmember Carol Pirsztuk:
- Pirsztuk said she went to the South Bay COG and all cities are not allowing scooters – we are the only city that has allowed them. They all expressed concerns with people using scooters on bike paths. Manhattan Beach has been issuing citations for riding them on bike paths as well.
- Pirsztuk was open to a new business model and getting workers from the East to visit downtown for food. She moved forward with a motion suggestion for a cease and desist for both Bird and Lime allowing the city to have time to revisit how to make the scooters best work. She was also upset that both companies weren’t being good partners doing their part.
Councilmember Don Brann:
- Brann agreed with Pirsztuk and wanted to set a precedent for companies to understand they can’t have “rogue companies come in and run over us.”
City Manager Greg Carpenter:
- Carpenter recommended that the scooter companies present a plan that would work for the City. They would exit the city until a partnership agreement is in place.
- Carpenter also suggested that we need to clarify in our municipal code that scooters cannot be operated on sidewalks. Although most cities prohibit bikes from being on sidewalks (rather, forced to use the street), El Segundo has not.
The City Council also discussed significant concerns about the insurance liability requirements. Santa Monica has already had to deal with expensive injury claims, and since claims take six months to process the number of claims is expected to climb. The City asserts the need for $4 million in liability coverage. Considering the companies believe $1 million is sufficient, it would seem we’re at a scooter impasse.
The topic of Scooters in El Segundo ended with all councilmembers in favor asking the scooters companies to remove scooters in El Segundo and to return with a plan that works for our city.
This seems like a reasonable outcome, leaving plenty of opportunity for a successful scooter sharing program in the future. However, this depends largely on the scooter companies swallowing their pride. The question stands: Are scooter companies willing to take the city council’s direction for the good of the community, or are they too busy padding their pockets to shift their approach? Time will tell.